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by Katy Bergen

December 28, 2019

If you aren't seeing fat loss results in the pool, try these strategies

Swimming has long been touted for its plethora of positive health benefits.

Swimming is an all-body workout that builds muscle strength and cardiovascular capacity and lowers blood pressure and risk of disease—all without the gravity-induced stress and joint pressure that athletes encounter on land.

These health benefits extend to fat and weight loss, too, as experts point to swimming as a safe way to slim down and tone up.

But like any sport, the connection between weight loss and swimming relies heavily on the intensity, frequency, and duration of your workouts, as well as your diet.

You should be aware of a few unique considerations of working out in a pool if weight loss is one of your reasons for swimming.

If you’re using swimming for weight loss goals and aren’t seeing results, other factors should be considered.


For many, swimming can be an effective activity for weight loss and fat loss, says physical therapist Carol Ferkovic Mack, owner of CLE Sports PT and Performance in Cleveland.

How hard you exercise plays a direct role in the calorie expenditure that helps you shed pounds.

"Exercising in a heart rate zone above 60 percent of maximum heart rate is beneficial for weight loss," Mack says. "Sixty to 70 percent is a good target, but if the swimmer is more experienced or has a good base of conditioning, they can try to stay in a more aerobic zone of 70-80 percent."

As for studies that seem to suggest that swimming is not the best activity to promote weight loss? Usually there are alternative factors to consider, such as how hard subjects were exercising or the size of the study.

"Training intensity matters for weight loss of body fat," Mack says. "Exercising at only 60 percent of maximum heart rate is considered to be light and not as effective for weight loss."

Interval Training

Another factor to consider? The type of workout you’re incorporating into your routine.

High-intensity interval training—training in shorter bursts of maximum effort instead of working out for longer at a lower intensity—burns fat both during a workout and long after it ends.

"Interval training is another great option to alternate bursts of higher heart rate training with recovery periods," Mack says.

Try these quick and simple workouts curated by USMS-certified Masters coach Scott Bay.

Focus on Nutrition and Caloric Intake

Of course, no exercise regimen will overcompensate for a poor diet. And no matter how hard or how much you work out, consuming more calories than you burn won't lead to weight loss.

That's why it's important to be aware of some studies that indicate swimming, particularly in cooler temperatures, can provide a challenge for swimmers looking to shed pounds.

Research conducted by the University of Florida concluded that exercising in cooler pool temperatures may stimulate the appetite more than participating in aquatic exercise in warmer temperatures.

The study concluded that swimmers struggling with weight loss should pay closer attention to what they are eating and how much they’re eating after a workout. A dietitian or sports nutritionist can help you develop a good nutrition plan.

Find a Training Regimen You Enjoy

It's a simple philosophy that can have a big impact on your commitment to exercise. The more you enjoy a workout regimen, the more likely you are to consistently make it part of your routine.

If swimming makes you want to come back, keep doing it. And if you’re struggling with your enthusiasm, it's time to switch things up.

Weight loss through swimming can be done. Just ask these swimmers.


  • Technique and Training


  • Weight Loss